Raptors’ Norman Powell Discusses Eye-Opening Summer in Israel
“That’s sports, not even basketball or anything. Music, business, whatever it is, you can bring people together and have a lasting effect of peace, unity and working together.”
Over the summer, Toronto Raptors’ swingman Norman Powell joined fellow NBA players to host Basketball Without Borders in Israel for the first time in the program’s history. A program that aims to bring together some of the best young and emerging talent across the world, to not only push basketball globally, but to unite and teach the youth through sports.
For Powell, embarking on his first visit to the Holy Land meant so much more than just the game itself. Born and raised in San Diego, California, the UCLA alum grew up in a religious household, prioritizing Christianity, and credits religion for his journey to the NBA and for the success he has found as a member of the Raptors organization.
“I go to pregame chapel every time,” Says the Raptors guard. “Ever since I was a rookie. I am a big believer in Christ and he’s played a big role in my life. I wouldn’t be here without him and I’m really big on religion.”
For Powell, it has been his spiritual belief and hard work ethic that has propelled him to where he is today. Fresh off of signing a four-year, $42-million contract extension with the Raptors, his story is quite a remarkable one. Spending four-years at UCLA, he was drafted by the Bucks in 2015 in the middle of the second round with the 46th overall pick and was immediately shipped to the Raptors as part of the Greivis Vasquez deal. After excelling on the Summer League stage and paying his dues with the 905, Powell established himself as an invaluable part of the Raptors rotation.
A revelation of sorts, when the Raptors came to him asking if he was willing to take part in Basketball Without Borders’ first trip to Israel, the decision was a simple for Powell.
“The team came to me and asked me. Larry and Judy Tanenbaum asked me if I could be the person to go and I thought it would be a great opportunity for me to be able to experience something totally new. You never really get a chance like this to go to Israel, to a different country and experience that and to do with basketball and everything that it was about. The first time having Basketball Without Borders in Israel, you know, I couldn’t say no.”
In Israel, Powell was joined by the likes of Los Angeles Clippers’ forward Sam Dekker, NBA Hall of Famer David Robinson, and Israeli-born Omri Casspi, who has found a niche as part of the Golden State Warriors’ second unit.
An eye-opening experience, Powell describes his experience in Israeli as one of his most humbling ones yet.
“I came over there with an open mind and really it was a life-changing experience for me to be able to see and listen to the stories of the young kids and having that effect of them,” Says Powell. “A lot of the kids knew my stats and I’m like not even LeBron James or Steph Curry. They know my game and them saying they look up to me is a humbling experience for me.”
Through his lens, this was a trip Norman Powell will never forget.